Act, Believe, Become

  We all know that our nervousness can interfere with our riding performance. When we become nervous, we might do things that we never would do and most of the time we don't realise we are doing it. We can do things like becoming stiff, gripping the reins, leaning forward and digging our heels into our horse's side. All of this leads to our horse not understanding our commands as clearly as he usually does. This can result in almost fighting with the horse to get through a course of jumps, a dressage test or any other event.

  To get over our nervousness, it may take quite a long time but it is something that all good riders should try to learn to do. Essentially, there are three steps to get there; act, believe and become.

Act

  To make yourself act the part isn't something that comes easy to many of us, however it's important to learn to do as it helps us learn how to control our nervousness. With practice, try to get yourself to become less stiff in the saddle and to not grip onto your reins so tightly. You want to try to make yourself ride like you normally would when you aren't nervous. 

  Keep telling yourself that you aren't nervous over and over again not to make yourself more nervous, but almost to try to trick your brain into thinking that you aren't anxious at all.

  The goal is that you want to make the others believe that you aren't phased by the task at hand. You don't want your nervousness to overwhelm you. It's okay to be a little anxious as long as it's not all that you are thinking about.

Believe

  The more you act this way, the more you realise that it works. You slowly start to believe that there isn't really a reason to be feeling the way you used to in certain situations. As you keep pretending that things don't phase you, you'll discover that you have gained more and more confidence in yourself and your horse.

  Make it a challenge to yourself to face the things that'll make you nervous to see if you can control it. Some things may take more time than others, but the more you expose yourself to things that make you uneasy the more you'll start to believe that you can overcome them. So whether it's attending more competitions or going on more trail rides, try to expose you and your horse to those things and believe that you will be successful at the end of it.

Become

  Eventually, you'll realise that you are not forcing yourself to control whether or not your nervousness overwhelms you and how you ride. It becomes almost like something you don't have to think about any more; like it's second nature.

  This is the point where you should look back on how far you've come. Maybe your skills as a rider drastically improved or maybe the bond between you and your horse has grown stronger. Maybe it has even moved into other parts of your life and you've realised how much more confident you have become. Whatever it is, be glad at how far you've progressed and let that encourage you to keep pushing yourself. 

  Remember that your nervousness may never completely disappear. If it ever does come back though, it'll be easier to deal with because you already know how to handle it.

  I want to wish you all the best in overcoming your nervousness while in the saddle. Take little steps in the right direction and you'll soon see that it wasn't such a big deal after all. Thank you for reading Pure Horse Sense and I hope that you will all enjoy your weekend.

  Until next time, happy riding!

Searching for Horses

  Some people may have the pleasure of owning a horse, others may be leasing and others may be looking for a horse. This week's blog post is all about what to look for in a horse when you finally have the chance to lease or buy one. Hopefully, at the end of this post, you'll have a better understanding of what to look for so you don't end up buying or leasing the wrong horse for you.

Leasing or Buying

  Depending on what type of commitment you are looking for, you may have different options in ownership. If you would like to have complete responsibility of your horse and are planning to keep him for a long time, buying a horse may be the best option for you.

  If you are new to the horse owning world and aren't sure if it is right for you, leasing a horse for a while may be a good option. That way, if anything were to happen where you are no longer able to take care of a horse, you don't have to worry about finding him a new owner.

  If you aren't sure you'll be able to take on the full responsibility of taking care of a horse, co-leasing or co-owning a horse may also be an option. This means that you are not the only person responsible for taking care of the horse. Often you will see two people leasing or owning a horse. You may also see a person leasing or owning a horse with their riding stable. The benefit of this is that you do not have to be at the stable everyday, you can take turns.

Cost

  The cost of buying or leasing a horse can be expensive. First, you'll need to determine a budget for purchasing a horse. Next, you'll have to factor in the cost for things like boarding, feed, bedding, farrier bills and vet bills. Once you have calculated all of these things, you'll be able to decide if you're able to afford a horse. It's not a good idea to try to save money by cutting corners with horses. If you try giving him low quality feed or skip out on routinely farrier visits, it may result in bigger vet bills later on.

Temperament

  When you finally go out to see a horse, make sure to see if his temperament will fit best with yours. Is he energetic or quiet? Is he more playful or more relaxed? All horses have different personalities. If a horse doesn't have the temperament right for you, you may become annoyed with him easily which will result in both of you not being too happy.

Know Your Stuff

  Many people may try to take advantage of you when you go to buy a horse. Make sure that you know enough about horses so that you aren't fooled and bring a trusted expert along with you. Horse owners may lie about a horse's age or his soundness. They may even drug a horse so that he looks more well behaved than he usually is. Make sure to look for these things when you are checking out a horse. Getting a horse is a big expense, you don't want to make the mistake by getting the wrong horse for you and then regretting your decisions.

  Make sure to get your vet and farrier to check the horse out before you get him as well. They'll be able to tell you if the horse is sound and if there should be any concerns.

Ask Questions

  The owner of the horse knows him better than you do. Ask them plenty of questions about temperament, how he is with other horses, if he is a quick learner, if he is good with children and pets, or if he has any vices. A good horse owner will be happily to answer all of your questions and it will also reassure them that their horse will be going to a good home.

  Another thing that may be good to ask is for them to show you what they are claiming. For example, if the owner is claiming that the horse trailers without a problem, ask them to show you. The owner has the best relationship with the horse, therefore he trusts his owner more than he will you at this point, so he will be more willing to do a task right if his owner is the one asking him to do it. Also, this will show you if the horse is really as good as the owner says he is with your own eyes so that you do not get any surprises when you get home.

Take Your Time

  There's no rush when it comes to buying a horse. Make sure you take the time to look at all the different horses before you get one. You shouldn't feel pressured into buying a horse on your first visit. In fact, I recommend that you go out to visit the horse about three times before you make the final decision. I would recommend that the second or third visit is "unannounced" to the owner. Tell them that you'll be in town sometime throughout a week and that you'll stop by again at that time. That way, the owner won't have the time to prepare the horse and you'll get to see him as he really is, giving you a better understanding of what you might be getting yourself into.

  When you take your time, you'll ensure that you will find the best horse for you. It may take a few weeks or a couple of years before you find that perfect horse for you, but in the end it will all be worth it. Remember that you need to find a horse that will fit your lifestyle best. You shouldn't expect the horse to change for you as this will only cause problems later on.

  So that's it for this week's blog post. I know that there are many other things that you can look for when buying or leasing a horse. Hopefully, this blog post has at least helped you get started on what to look for in a horse and has brought up some points that you might of not of realised before.

  If you like these types of blog posts, the first post I have ever written on Pure Horse Sense is about the things you should look for when choosing a new stable. If you would like to read that one, you can find it by looking through the

Blog Posts By Date

section on the left hand side of this page. Thank you for reading and I wish you all the best with your horses or with your horse searching.

  Until next time, happy riding!

'Round and 'Round

  This time of year, our horses seem to be the most fresh. They haven't been worked as much through the winter so they are always excited to get back to work. For many of us, lunging our horses may be needed to help get rid of some of that excess energy.

  It seems though that some of us have difficulty with lunging effectively. So if you are one of those people or you would like to just refresh your mind, keep reading.

  Lunging is a great way to drain some of your horse's energy, to give him exercise, to teach him how to bend on a circle, to check his soundness or even to improve your communication with him. 

  Here is a list of the things you will need in order to lunge:

  • A halter or bridle

  • A lunge line

  • A pair of gloves

  Here is a list of the things many riders may want to use while lunging:

  • A lunge whip

  • A surcingle or saddle

  • Side reins

  • Polos or boots

  Here is a list of things you want to avoid while lunging:

  • Wearing spurs on your feet

  • The reins on your horse's bridle are not tied up and are moving all over the place

  • The stirrups on your saddle are not secured and are knocking against your horse's belly

  • The lunge line is dragging on the floor

  • The lunge line is wrapped around your hand

  • You are walking around with your horse instead of being in the centre of the circle

  Now that we have gotten all of that our of the way, you can now learn the basics of lunging. First you must understand how to control your horse without being next to him. 

  Horses work through pressure and release. Pressure can come from the way you speak or the way you move. 

  Horses also have what is called a drive line. This drive line can be found around the shoulder of your horse. If you increase the pressure behind the shoulder, your horse will increase his speed. If you increase the pressure in front of the shoulder, your horse will decrease his speed. When you keep yourself in line with the shoulder and you are not putting any pressure on your horse, he will stay at the same speed. This is why we make a triangle with ourselves. That way, it is much easier for us to give clear direction with our horses about what we want them to do.

  Please be careful about how much pressure you use on your horse. Some horses are more sensitive than others and they will give you a bigger reaction. Make sure to not always put pressure on your horse either. Horses learn through release. So, if you keep putting pressure on your horse and he never gets release, he will learn to ignore that pressure which in turn means that you need to put more on him in order to get a reaction.

  When you are lunging your horse, make sure that you are not travelling with him. Keep yourself in line with his shoulder and take little steps as you follow him around. If you start to see a slack in your lunge line, that is a sign that either you are moving towards your horse or he is moving towards you. Try to correct this as quickly as possible. If you do have problems with travelling with your horse, try lunging in a round pen. That way, you will be encouraged to stay in the centre of the ring. 

  When you have decided to stop or to change directions, release the pressure behind his shoulder and start walking towards the outer edge of the circle to cut him off his path. You shouldn't have to walk too far before he starts to stop. Once you have moved yourself in front of his drive line, you are already putting pressure on him to slow down.

  I hope that this blog post on lunging was helpful to all of you. As I have talked about pressure and release quite a bit in this post, I will be writing next week's post about it and how we can use it to our advantage. I think it's really important that we all understand the concept of pressure and release as it is the way horses communicate to each other and how we should be communicating with them. With that said, that may mean that there will be more than one post on pressure and release in the future.

  I hope you are all having a great day and are enjoying your weekend. Until next week, I wish you all the best with your horses and that you don't get too dizzy while you are lunging them. Take it a little bit at a time and have fun.

Safety First! (No Stirrups)

  Happy Friday everyone!

  Riding without stirrups is one of the most dreadful things your instructor could say during a lesson sometimes, especially if you aren't used to it. Believe it or not, they are doing you a favour. Let's face it, you cannot depend on your stirrups for balance. If your horse decides to turn quickly or pop a jump, you may end up loosing your stirrup. In some cases, you just don't have the time to get it back. So, you need to be able to ride without them. It will also help you to become stronger in your legs and will improve you riding.

  The first thing you need to know is that your leg position should not change once you have dropped your stirrups. It shouldn't start to swing while you move, it shouldn't drop to the point where there isn't a bend in your knee any more and it shouldn't rise up to the point where the bend in your knee is past 90 degrees. You also want to make sure that you do not grip with your knees or the reins for balance. You should also make sure that your heels are down. The best thing to do is to relax. Your riding shouldn't be compromised because the stirrups are gone.

  The next thing you need to know is what to do with your stirrups. When you are starting to learn how to ride without them, just take your feet out and let them hang against the horse's belly. Chances are that you will start to loose your balance after a few steps. You will need to work up gradually. So having your stirrups right next to your feet allows you to take them back when you need to.

  Once you are comfortable enough to ride a little longer without your stirrups, you can cross them out of your way. Crossing your stirrups involves lowering the stirrup leather's buckle and crossing them in front of the pommel of the saddle. Make sure that the stirrup leathers lie flat under the saddle's skirt. That way, your thighs won't get pinched as you ride.

  Once you are able to ride for a long time without your stirrups, the next thing you can do is get rid of them completely. Take them off of your saddle and ride the whole time without them. By this point you should be very comfortable with riding without your stirrups. You should be well balanced and should have a strong leg.

  I also have a couple tips I would like to give all of you about riding without those stirrups:

  • Make sure that you don't hold onto the reins. It's something a lot of us seem to do, but your horse won't like it and you won't be as balanced as you could be.

  • Another thing to remember is to keep your horse moving at an active pace. If your horse has an active stride, it will be a lot easier for you as his movements can help you out. Posting your trot is probably one of the hardest things to do without your stirrups. If your horse is lazy, you'll have a much harder time posting than you will if your horse is active.

  I hope this information helps you all in becoming better riders. Remember to do this gradually and at your own speed. It will be a workout for a while, I promise you that. But you will become better and stronger because of it.

  Until next week, I hope you all are doing well. Thank you for reading and subscribing to my blog. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can do so two different ways at the bottom of this page. That way, you will be updated every time I post another entry. Take care and enjoy the time you have with your horses.